In its latest move to bring against the people of Kashmir, the BJP government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has altered citizenship laws, allowing outsiders who have lived in Kashmir for 15 years...
In its latest move to bring against the people of Kashmir, the BJP government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has altered citizenship laws, allowing outsiders who have lived in Kashmir for 15 years to gain Kashmiri domiciles. Students who have studied in the area for up to seven years and passed their 9th/10th exams from there can also claim this as can children of government administrators who have served in Kashmir for up to 10 years. The purpose of the previous provisions allowing only Kashmiris to buy property in the area was intended to protect its unique nature, and most importantly, its demographics. Opponents of the BJP government fear that this is an effort to alter the demographical divisions in Kashmir and possibly flood it with non-Muslims. The special status of Kashmir, which gave the right to its legislature to determine ‘permanent residence’ of the state, had been removed some eight months ago.
The latest move, which comes amid the Covid-19 crisis that has grabbed the attention of most in the country, has been criticised strongly by Kashmiri leaders. Laws framed at the time of Partition had specifically stated that those who were not declared to be Kashmiri residents by the parliament of the state would not be permitted to purchase property in the region so that a future plebiscite approved by the UN as the mechanism to settle Kashmir’s future would be fair and untarnished by politics. The latest intervention by a government that had declared its intention prior to its election last year to alter the situation of Kashmir is obviously intended to convert the area into one dominated by non-Muslims. The move has been strongly condemned by Pakistan, with Prime Minister Imran Khan calling it the tactic of a fascist government engaged in games of ethnic alteration. Other experts on Kashmir have also expressed grave concern over the move and there have been some protests in Srinagar. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has already been divided into two union territories, Kashmir and Ladakh.
The policies in Kashmir come against a continued tide of hatred directed against Muslims in India. The secular India set up by the founders of the country has vanished. In a latest incidence of open hatred, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has declared that Muslims are not equal citizens of India, while defending a new law introduced by the BJP government offering fast-track citizenship to all persons who move into Indian territory from neighbouring countries, except Muslims. Swamy also said that any country made up of a population of more than 30 percent Muslims faces dangers. Again, Pakistan’s prime minister has lashed out against the discriminatory language and the words used. But until the rest of the world recognises the dangers of what is happening in India and notably in Kashmir, there will be no change and no end to the suffering of India’s largest minority group.